Tizimin, where corn is being grown in stony soil
San José, Costa Rica, February 2012 (IICA). Thanks to a unique technology, on Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula grains and other crops are being produced with high yields in stony and highly alkaline soils. “The project has a lot of potential, given the challenges of food security,” said Víctor M. Villalobos, Director General of Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), after visiting the area.
Accompanied by the IICA Representative in Mexico, Gino Buzzetti, Villalobos visited the Enerall project on the Yucatan peninsula earlier this month (February 2012). Tizimin is an area where the soil conditions make it virtually impossible to practice conventional and mechanized agriculture.
The technology involved entails the use of machinery to crush the stones on and near the surface and create a substratum to which organic matter (mostly undergrowth) is added. Beneficial microorganisms are then introduced into the substratum and irrigation systems set up. The resulting conditions make it possible to plant commercially competitive crops such as corn, sweet sorghum, sugarcane, soybeans, jatropha, and castor beans.
The project has been in operation for four years and a surface area of roughly 800 hectares has gradually been incorporated into production; four corn crops have been produced so far, with encouragingly high yields.
Villalobos explained that the process of improving the soil is a gradual one, and yields increase when post-harvest waste is added to the soil. “For example, after four corn crops, yields of 7 t/h have been achieved, and up to 120 in the case of sugarcane. An integrated system of agrochemicals and biological control is used to control pests and diseases; and efficient weed control is achieved with the application of herbicides.”
The costs at present are high, but can be reduced significantly by incorporating areas of more than 100,000 hectares, achieving economies of scale.
The IICA Director General believes that many Latin American and Caribbean countries that have areas with similar soils, perhaps used only for subsistence livestock activities, could find innovation of this kind attractive, to guarantee food security and the sustainable management of agriculture.
He warned, however, that for these initiatives to be commercially viable, policies must be put in place to involve the public and private sectors, the banking system, and farm owners in a business strategy and arrangements that ensure economic, social, and environmental accountability.
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